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Social Isolation: An Important Health and Public Health Issue and a Significant Cost to Medicare

Social isolation has been shown to lead to poor health and even premature death. New research just published by the AARP Public Policy Institute finds that isolation also increases health care costs: a lack of social contacts among older adults is associated with an estimated $6.7 billion in additional Medicare spending annually.

This event, hosted by the AARP Public Policy Institute, was a discussion of social isolation’s effects on individuals’ health, its impact on Medicare spending, and potential policy solutions to address social isolation and its consequences.  In addition, panelists discussed how social isolation became recognized as a major public health concern in the UK and how the issue can be better recognized in the US. Also discussed were current efforts by the AARP Foundation and Medicare Advantage plans to address the issue.

Watch the archived videos below:

Part 1.  The Impact of Social Isolation on Medicare spending.  Meet the researchers and issue experts who have identified social isolation as the new silent killer.  PPI’s new study confirms that Medicare is spending $6.7 billion annually as a result of this public health issue.

Part 2.  Solutions to Address Social Isolation.  Learn more from experts working to solve the problem of social isolation both in the U.S. and abroad.  What we need to do next is develop the evidence base for sound solutions.


January 31, 2018


Panel One: The Impact of Social Isolation on Health Care Spending

9:00am-9:20am: Welcome and Opening Remarks           

Susan Reinhard, Senior Vice President and Director, AARP Public Policy Institute & Chief Strategist, Center to Champion Nursing in America

Moderator:  Susan Reinhard

9:20am-9:35am: Findings from PPI’s Report on Social Isolation and Medicare Spending                

Lynda Flowers, Senior Strategic Policy Advisor, AARP Public Policy Institute


9:35am-10:05am: Panel Discussion


Tricia Neuman, Senior Vice President of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and Director of the Foundation’s Program on Medicare Policy

Jonathan Shaw, Clinical Assistant Professor Medicine and Director of Community Partnerships, Division of Primary Care & Population Health, Stanford University School of Medicine

10:05am-10:20am: Panel One Q & A Session

10:20am-10:35am: Break


Panel Two: Solutions to Address Social Isolation

10:35am-10:40am: Opening Remarks and Introduction of Panel Two

Lina Walker, Vice President, Health Security, AARP Public Policy Institute

Moderator:  Lina Walker

10:40am-10:55am: AARP Foundation Initiatives to Address Social Isolation

Lisa Marsh Ryerson, President, AARP Foundation

10:55am-11:25am Panel Discussion


Julianne Holt-Lunstad, Professor, Brigham Young University

Janet Morrison, CEO, Independent Age and Chair of Campaign to End Loneliness in the UK

Sara Stevenson, MBA, Strategic Consultant of the Bold Goal, Office of the Chief Medical Officer at Humana 

11:25am-11:40am Panel Two Q & A Session

11:40am-12:00pm: Closing Remarks                          

Debra Whitman, Executive Vice President and Chief Public Policy Officer, AARP


The Public Policy Institute (PPI) informs and stimulates public debate on the issues we face as we age. PPI promotes the development of sound, creative, unbiased policies to address our common need for financial security, health care, and quality of life. To learn more about Social Isolation and other pertinent topics on aging visit


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